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Cape Town -
Frustrated community leaders and residents of Hangberg accused Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille on Thursday of visiting the area to raise their profile for the elections in May.
They wanted to know when their families would be able to live without fear of eviction and who would benefit from the city’s R39 million housing development.
Both leaders blamed the internal divisions within the community, and its leadership, for scuppering the government’s efforts to improve conditions. They appealed to residents to resolve their issues so that residential units could be built as planned.
“When communities are divided, it’s almost impossible to get development to happen,” said Zille.
The Hout Bay Civic Association said it “condemned” the visit as “nothing more than a PR exercise”. Its secretary, Roscoe Jacobs, said residents were not told of the event.
It was Zille’s first visit since 2010 when evictions, ordered by the city council, led to violent protests and the shooting of three residents.
The two leaders, accompanied by councillors and representatives of the provincial government, had come to celebrate the start of a residential development that had been mooted in 2007.
The meeting got off to a tense start as residents jostled to get inside the community hall where the speeches were being made. Access to the building was strictly controlled, but no one was turned away from the meeting.
De Lille said the city had worked with the Peace and Mediation Forum to find a solution for the community.
The two-phase development of the first two of four sites would provide 142 community residential units, said De Lille.
The city has only 200 rental units in the area. De Lille said the project would take about 15 months to complete. The mayoral committee member for housing, Tandeka Gqada, said she hoped the ongoing tension in the community would not derail the project.
Zille said plans to formalise informal dwellings in Hangberg, with in situ upgrades, were delayed by the need to do environmental impact assessments (EIA) before the project could start.
“We agreed that no one new would move into the site during the EIA process. Unfortunately this agreement was breached. Our relationship (with the community) deteriorated because we insisted that everyone keep to this agreement.”
She alluded to internal conflict between residents about the leaders of the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum set up to represent the community.
“It’s not for us to determine who represents you. Internal community conflicts have been devastating for this project and others we’ve tried in the area.
“If it were not for people moving into the site in Hout Bay (in 2010), this project would have been completed long ago.”
The meeting was interrupted by questions from Haneefa Lee, who claimed to be one of the legitimately elected leaders of the forum.
“Why is everyone bypassing the forum? This is about power and money; it’s not about divided communities,” she said.
Lee insisted that the government was not working with the elected leadership.
“We asked you for help. The people who are working with you are the same people who make our communities unsafe.
“Our kids are in danger. We can’t sleep at night.”
As Zille ended the meeting, residents jumped up demanding to be allowed to ask questions.
At the official sod-turning ceremony after the meeting, emotions again ran high as residents demanded to know who would qualify for the residential units and why they weren’t informed of the meeting.
Moses Egypt, whose son Delon, 27, was one of four residents who lost an eye when police fired rubber bullets during the 2010 clash, wanted to know whether he would be compensated.